COP 24 in Katowice: United Nations acknowledge role of forestry for protecting the climate

Yesterday, the ministers and heads of delegations of the participating countries of the COP 24 in Katowice accepted “The Ministerial Katowice Declaration on Forests for the Climate”. For Georg Schirmbeck, president of the German Forestry Council, this constitutes a significant step in the right direction: “As I have said earlier: The way out of the climate crisis has to lead into the forest”, he corroborated in Berlin today (December 13th).

He continued: „I especially welcome the international acknowledgement of managed forests as key components of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere. Additionally, I am pleased that the declaration recognizes the full spectrum of multifunctionality, including economic and cultural aspects of using forests, for example wood production and the preservation of historically grown landscape structures as part of the ecosystem services supplied by forests and their managers”, the president emphasized.

Schirmbeck explicitly addressed the declaration’s three points.

According to point 1, the contribution of forests and forest products to protecting the climate is to be maintained and enhanced till 2050. Additionally, contributions from cities, regions, companies and investors are to be supported (point 3). Schirmbeck said: “For this, forest owners and foresters are important people to include in any endeavor. In Germany, we represent the local communities in the sense of paragraph 11 of the declaration; we have been combatting deforestation and forest degradation for 300 years and have doubled the forested area in Germany in this time. It is our duty to continue doing this in the favor of current and future generations. For this, it is crucial that, considering the successes of the past centuries, people will continue putting their trust in forest owners and foresters, instead of opting for more regulation!”

Point 2 of the declaration talks about supporting science in further efforts of researching and quantifying forests as carbon sinks and reservoirs. “A great approach”, according to Schirmbeck. “In contemporary science, grant money often is approved for a few years only. For measuring the sink performance of forest, this is not sufficient. If one, for example, observes an unmanaged forest during its growth phase only, it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that it would act as a sink forever. But the balance will topple eventually: If trees
are not removed but die from old age and then decay, the forest will become a carbon source.”

The president of the German Forestry Council argues in favor of long term experiment areas in forestry. “Setting aside forested areas for long-term observations and interventions are a trademark of German forestry. They are measured for decades and can thereby protect us from such fallacies. They show us that only a managed forest can act as a sink continuously. Especially considering the uncertainties of climate change, we need more such areas!”

For putting the declaration into effect in Germany, Schirmbeck advises to begin with two short-term measures:

Firstly, the role of forests as a carbon sink is to be acknowledged in the governmental “climate protection report 2018” (Klimaschutzbericht 2018). “In its current form, the forests are arbitrarily reclassified as a source. If the federal government does not correct this and it gets cemented in laws, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy”, explains Schirmbeck.

Secondly, the federal government should increase its financial support of forests owners for dealing with the damage done by this year’s extreme weather. “Without this emergency support, the adaptation of our forests to climate change, as asked for by paragraph 10 of the declaration, cannot be achieved”, Schirmbeck concluded.

The Declaration

Additional information:

COP 24
Katowice (Poland) is hosting the 24th UN Climate Change Conference, also known as the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) between December 2 and December 14 2018. It is intended to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement of 2015.
According to a special report released by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018, it is still possible to reach this agreement’s 1.5 °C target of increase in global average temperature, as long as far-reaching measures are realized now.
The German Forestry Council (Deutscher Forstwirtschaftsrat, DFWR) is the voice of German forestry. It is the representative organization of all stakeholders in German forestry and supports sustainable forestry. To the DFWR, sustainable forestry means that care and management of the forests takes place to keep them healthy, stable and capable and to support their multifunctional provision of usability, protection and recreation in the service of culture and environment, now and in the future. This is the guiding thought of around two million forest owners in Germany, who manage an area of 11.4 million hectare – around 32% of Germany’s total area.